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Kashkari Wins, Will Face Brown for Calif. Governor

Kashkari Wins, Will Face Brown for Calif. Governor

By Adam O'Neal - June 4, 2014

SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- Establishment Republicans in California won a major victory Tuesday night, as former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari defeated Tea Party-backed state Assemblyman Tim Donnelly for a chance to challenge Gov. Jerry Brown in November.

Brown received about 54.5 percent of the vote, a significant show of strength for the heavily favored Democratic incumbent. Kashkari beat Donnelly by about four percentage points, 19 percent to 14.8 percent.  

(California has used a “jungle” primary system since 2012. All candidates, regardless of party affiliation, run in one primary for each office. The top two vote-getters advance to the general election.) 

Though Donnelly -- a conservative favorite in California -- led Kashkari for months, the former Bush administration official gained momentum in the final days of the contest. Kashkari’s campaign had long predicted that its ubiquitous television ads and targeted mailers would increase his name identification enough to beat Donnelly.

Donnelly developed a reputation in California over the last four years as a controversial -- if marginal -- figure in state politics best known for his hard-line stance against illegal immigration. Consequently, he had terrified national Republicans, who were concerned his candidacy would embarrass the party and hurt its image throughout the state and elsewhere in the country.  

Kashkari received endorsements from a long list of establishment Republican figures, including: 2012 Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Rep. Darrell Issa, and former California Gov. Pete Wilson. 

Donnelly ran an entirely grassroots-focused campaign primarily organized through social media. He aggressively toured the state in a converted RV loaned from longtime friends, while Kashkari raised millions of dollars and ran a highly disciplined operation. 

Several congressional races were set on Tuesday as well.   

Longtime Democratic Rep. Mike Honda will face another Democrat in November, former Obama administration official Ro Khanna, in the state’s 17th Congressional District. While Honda has the backing of traditional Democratic constituencies, such as organized labor, Khanna has raised millions of dollars, much of it from Silicon Valley. 

In San Diego, former Councilman Carl DeMaio -- a Republican who ran for mayor in 2012 -- will challenge Rep. Scott Peters, a freshman Democrat. DeMaio would become the first openly gay Republican congressman if elected in November, though he has repeatedly downplayed the importance of the issue in the race. 

In California’s 33rd Congressional District, which is located in Los Angeles, Democratic state Sen. Ted Lieu and Republican Elan Carr both advanced to the general election. The district, currently represented by veteran Congressman Henry Waxman, is expected to remain Democratic hands. 

Sandra Fluke -- the Democratic activist who attempted to parlay her Rush Limbaugh-generated fame in 2012 into a state Senate seat -- will face school board member Ben Allen in November. Allen drew 21.9 percent of the vote to finish first; Fluke was second with 19.4 percent. She recently told RCP that the race would be difficult, though she believed she had “a very good chance.” 

The gubernatorial contest set aside, results in other statewide races were largely predictable. 

Attorney General Kamala Harris and Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom both easily won their primaries, and each is expected to coast to re-election in November. 

Independent Dan Schnur, a well-respected figure in the state among Democrats and Republicans alike, failed to gain traction in his non-partisan bid for secretary of state. Democratic state Sen. Alex Padilla and Republican academic Pete Peterson will challenge each other in November. (Former state Sen. Leland Yee -- who was recently indicted for weapons trafficking, among other charges -- garnered about 11 percent of the vote in the secretary of state primary.)

Adam O'Neal is a political reporter for RealClearPolitics. He can be reached at aoneal@realclearpolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter @RealClearAdam.

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